A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If I were a Commissioner #1: Beach Parking

This morning the County Commission heard a presentation on the possibility of going to a system of paid parking at our beaches, something many neighboring counties (but not Manatee) apparently do. Some Commissioners are committed to free parking, while others want to explore the idea of having beach users help pay for beach management. 

From my perspective, they seemed to get bogged down in who would get free or reduced parking and who would pay full freight. This led to a discussion of how to determine who would get the preferred rate -- would they have to live here, or own property here or pay taxes here, or what? And how would they establish their status?  I pictured a rather bureaucratic system of checking everyone's credentials -- a process that seems awfully cumbersome and top down to me.

Here's what I would propose (if a majority wanted to try this at all): Create a tiered system of parking (starting experimentally at Siesta Beach) that would allow beach users, and not the county, to determine how much they wanted to pay. This wouldn't be an honor system with a cup, but (possibly) three zones of parking, each with different rates.

The spaces closest to the road would be free - always. A middle section would have modest parking fees and the spaces closest to the beach would be "premium" spots that might go for several bucks an hour. Beachgoers would sort themselves out according to their willingness to trade walking for paying. If people had a lot of gear or were willing to pay for convenience, they could go for the premium spaces. If people needed free parking they could go off-peak (avoid the busiest times) or wait until someone left in the no-pay section. And most people would be charged a modest amount.

At first this would be a big experiment and would probably take some fine tuning to adjust the relative size of each rate category, but once calibrated it could generate as much revenue as a one-rate-fits-all blanket fee or a two tiered (resident/non-resident) system that involved elaborate means of determining who qualified for the best rate. 

Is this a great idea? I'm not sure. It may have some hidden flaws. But it is a different idea, one that gives people choices rather than making the county choose amongst us and it is an idea none of the current commissioners brought up this morning. 

And that's one reason I think I would strengthen the County Commission team -- introducing new ideas. If my ideas have merit then others will pick up on them and move forward, if not the other four will have no trouble telling me thanks, but no thanks. 


I haven't changed a word of the blog above from January. This week (in May) the Board of County Commissioners voted to not move forward with beach parking fees at this time. That's fine with me. My blog was attempting to suggest an alternative HOW to approach beach parking fees, not WHETHER to. I hope it was clear from the third paragraph "(if a majority wanted to try this at all)" that I was looking for some consensus position; and that was if two commissioners were insistent about maintaining free parking that there might be a way to do that and collect fees. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Radical idea: try a two party system!

Here's a novel idea:

"You might prefer just to vote only for candidates who take a pledge to do the best they can to hold down costs, and then kick them out after four years if they fail to meet your standard.

I point out, with no ulterior motive, this is easier to do if you have a strong two-party system."

That's part of a
Waldo Profitt column. Makes you wonder why Sarasota County hasn't tried that approach for 42 years. 

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ed Smith Stadium

I sent the following E-Mail to Sarasota County Commissioners on January 21, the day the Sarasota Herald Tribune ran an Editorial about Ed Smith Stadium.


I noticed the Sarasota Herald Tribune article encouraging everyone to take another shot at the Ed Smith Stadium deal couldn't bring itself to mention the county share (only that it would be $4 million less than the previous approach).  And I lament the fact that so many professional teams tend to comparison shop, looking for deals, rather than making a commitment to a community and sticking with it.

My philosophy is that one antidote to sprawl and the general homogenization of our community is that, whenever possible, we should try to save what is unique and special about Sarasota County. That guides my thinking on ESLOC and led to the idea of the Neighborhood Parks program. I understand that a County commitment to the latest Ed Smith Stadium proposals will mean other initiatives will not be funded, but I think this stripped down version is worth pursuing. I'm not sure Spring Training is as central to Sarasota's identity as the Ringling Winter Quarters were to Venice, but losing industries with such public connection and accessibility is, I believe, more damaging to our communities than losing comparable enterprises that are virtually invisible. 


Jono Miller